Queen’s Speech: Government pledges to ‘grow and strengthen economy’ amid cost-of-living crisis

Speech includes no new measures despite saying ministers understand "how the rising cost of living is making life harder for people"
Photo: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

By Alain Tolhurst

10 May 2022

The government promised to “grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families” in this year’s Queen’s Speech, but announced no new measures to tackle the crisis.

The Queen, 96, had planned to deliver today's speech marking the state opening of parliament, but pulled out of the ceremonial occasion on Monday evening citing "episodic mobility problems”.  

The responsibility of outlining Boris Johnson's legislative programme for the forthcoming parliamentary session has instead been delegated to the Prince of Wales for the first time.

It includes 38 new bills, including seven measures related to Brexit and scrapping existing EU regulation, but did not include any specific new measures to tackle the cost of living crisis.

The government said it “understands how the rising cost of living is making life harder for people”, and pointed to an existing support package of £22bn in 2022-23 to help families.

It added that it will “continue to keep the situation under review”, and is “ready to take further steps, if needed” to support households.

"My government’s priority is to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families," Charles began in his address to the House of Lords. 

“My government will 'level up' opportunity in all parts of the country and support more people into work.

“My ministers will continue to support the police to make the streets safer, and fund the National Health Service to reduce the Covid backlogs.

"In these challenging times, my government will play a leading role in defending democracy and freedom across the world, including continuing to support the people of Ukraine.”

The prime minister said the speech was part of a wider programme to get the country "back on track" after the pandemic, adding the government is "focused like a laser" on the issues that matter most to the public.

As well as helping to boost the economy, the agenda includes a hardened line on "guerrilla protests" with jail sentences of up to six months and unlimited fines for those who glue themselves to roads or "lock on" to public transport infrastructure.

Home secretary Priti Patel said the measures were necessary to prevent environmental protest groups like Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion from demonstrations that she believed could bring the country to "a grinding halt”.

The government has tried to bring in legislation on this subject before but has been blocked by the House of Lords, however officials said the new bill could be introduced in Parliament as early as Wednesday.

Other measures in this year's speech include a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights in UK law.

A media bill will enable the privatisation of Channel 4, while a schools bill for England will crack down on truancy and beef up the powers of education watchdogs, while a long-awaited draft mental health bill will overhaul existing powers to protect patient liberty and prevent people with learning difficulties from being detained without their consent.

In an effort to deliver the government's flagship 'levelling up' agenda, a regeneration bill is expected to give local leaders powers to rejuvenate high streets by forcing landlords to rent out empty shop units.

The government’s plan for the economy “will be underpinned by a responsible approach to the public finances, reducing debt while reforming and cutting taxes”, as well supporting the Bank of England to return inflation to its target.

A transport bill will create the body Great British Railways to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers, while an energy security bill will build on the success of the COP26 Summit in Glasgow last year to deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy.

Meanwhile a bill will be brought forward to “further strengthen powers to tackle illicit finance”, while measures will be introduced to support the security services, and legislation will prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion.

The government will also improve the regulation of social housing to strengthen the rights of tenants and ensure better quality, safer homes, while also bringing forward the long-awaited ban on conversion therapy, and publish proposals to establish an independent regulator of English football.

While the speech was delivered by Prince Charles in the House of Lords, the Queen's throne remained empty, with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall taking their usual places. Prince William will also participate in the event for the first time. 

The only previous occasions when Elizabeth II missed the state opening were in 1959 and 1963 when she was pregnant, first with Prince Andrew and then Prince Edward.

Alain Tolhurst is chief reporter for CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared

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